Lönnström Project 5

Survival Guide for a Post-Apocalyptic Child

Nastja Säde Rönkkö | 2021–2022

Survival Guide for a Post-Apocalyptic Child is an intensive and immersive multi-disciplinary artwork combining digital media, text, and participatory engagement. The piece explores the uncertain future of our planet from a variety of perspectives. Its final form will be a multi-channel video installation that will be presented in autumn 2022, as well as a survival guide in the form of a book. The project also includes workshops run by experts in various fields.

Nastja Säde Rönkkö’s videos are stories about the last moments of the human race, the end of the world, about nature, longing and loss. Simultaneously they are also insights into love, humanity, the future, caring, and the beauty of the end of all things. Survival Guide for a Post Apocalyptic Child is an exploration of climate anxiety, the future of the planet, crises and how we cope with them, the importance of slowness, finding alternatives, power relations, listening, humanity, and the relationship of all these themes with the digital age.

We are currently living in the midst of existential threats that generate fear and a sense of helplessness. Climate change is becoming increasingly obvious day by day, communication is torn by rifts and hate speech, and the world can be brought to a sudden halt by a pandemic.

At the core of Survival Guide for a Post-Apocalyptic Child is the idea that some event has already had a significant impact on life on Earth – a political, environmental, or social transformation. What would be worth saving in that situation, what are the things we want to remember and learn so as to be able to pass them on to future generations? From these elements, Rönkkö composes a multi-faceted survival guide for the future.

The aim of the project is to reflect upon, create and dream ways and means with which we might survive physical, mental and emotional changes. Although the context and thematics of the work are future-oriented, the work will ultimately be produced for us who live in the present moment.

Nastja Säde Rönkkö (b. 1985) is an artist based in Helsinki whose work investigates fundamental human themes such as social relations, love, empathy and closeness. She uses a variety of expressive mediums in her work, including media art, performance, community art, online art, and text. She earned an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2011. She was nominated the Young Finnish Artist of the Year in 2019.

Day camp for young people, 14–18 June 2021

Lönnström Art Museum organised a day camp for young people from 14–18 June 2021. The camp was part of the Lönnström Project Survival Guide for a Post-Apocalyptic Child, a joint production by the Lönnström Art Museum and artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö. The camp covered such topics as the future of the planet and survival skills in a crisis situation. Nastja Säde Rönkkö designed the content and served as the leader of the camp. The programme also included several thematic workshops given by visiting experts.

The first workshop was by climate educator and researcher Anna E. Lehtonen. She used discussion and drama to explore climate change and the emotions awakened by it. All sorts of emotions and key words associated with climate change came up in the discussions, such as fear, anxiety, frustration and exhaustion. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The emotions were then explored through drama in the workshop; how would you express such feelings with your body? Where would you feel them? Would it feel like a stab in the chest, a pair of hands strangling you, or a heavy weight on your shoulders?

On the second day the theme was survival. Anna Kari, food expert from the Rural Women’s Advisory Organisation, ran a workshop at the museum on preparedness. She covered such topics as household resources and edible wild plants that are found in nature in Finland. Some of the participants screwed up their courage and tasted the dried dandelions Anna had brought with her. At first bite, they described the taste as nutty, but soon their expressions turned into a grimace. The aftertaste, we learned, was horrible beyond description. Fortunately, there were plenty of nettle waffles and tart rhubarb jam to cleanse the taste buds afterwards.

Led by wilderness guide Kati Granroth, the next two days focused on survival skills. On Wednesday, we visited Kati’s turf at Pinkjärvi in Eurajoki. On a forest hike, we practised map reading, how to use a compass, and how to make kindling. As the lean-to was leaking, we got to try our hand at building an emergency shelter using nothing but tarp and string. The exercise produced two very different models, which were named Pertti and Jalmari. Not even the armies of mosquitoes lurking in the forest could slow down the pace. Some people even began to plan a new excursion at the end of the trip!

On Thursday, Kati came to visit the museum, where we got to rehearse hiking etiquette and practise knot tying. Now which way did you have to turn the rope to make a bowline knot?

Nastja Säde Rönkkö’s own exercises had the end of the world as the main theme. Everything culminated on the last day, when camp participants got to apply the things they had learned to build a new society after the apocalypse. The process resulted in several performances and a guidebook. Would the world end in a solar storm or at the hands of man-eating unicorns? What things would need to be preserved from the old world? What values, laws or rules would the new society have? What skills would be considered useful? This world-building exercise was exceptionally popular, and the most enthusiastic groups even had time to consider new mythologies and legends: what was the fabled Coca-Cola and who possessed its secret recipe? One thing was certain: not a single future society would use dandelions as food.

Veera Virtanen
Camp instructor

The day camp was supported by the Satakunta Children’s Cultural Network.